The U.S. Supreme Court this week declined to hear a challenge to a rule that bans development on certain federal lands, including about 60,000 acres of national forest in Minnesota.
Former President Bill Clinton signed the "roadless rule" in 2001. It protected about 50 million acres of roadless areas in national forests around the country. The restrictions applied to several thousand acres in Minnesota, much of it bordering the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
Many local officials in northeast Minnesota opposed the rule because of concerns it could hurt the state's logging industry. But advocates of the policy say roadless areas preserve wild places and provide benefits for wildlife habitat.
"This is really good news for a significant amount of very precious lands across the country, in particular in the west. This is a tremendous opportunity for Americans to protect some of the best of what we've got left," said Betsy Daub, policy director for Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness.
The Bush administration delayed implementing the rule, which has been stuck in litigation for the past decade. But the Supreme Court decision in a case filed by Wyoming and the Colorado Mining Association means the rule is likely to be in effect permanently.